MOSCOW — Russia denounced on Thursday the impending deployment of a new team of European Union monitors to Armenia’s border with Azerbaijan, saying that it could only heighten tensions between the two South Caucasus nations.

EU foreign ministers approved the two-year monitoring mission on Monday in a move requested and welcomed by Armenia. They said it will “contribute to stability in the border areas of Armenia” and facilitate an Armenian-Azerbaijani peace deal.

The Russian Foreign Ministry claimed that the mission could on the contrary “bring geopolitical confrontation to the region and exacerbate existing disagreements.” It branded the EU as an “appendage of the U.S. and NATO.”

“We do not see any ‘added value’ from the supervision of EU ‘experts’ over events in the Armenian-Azerbaijani border area,” the ministry said in a statement. “If Brussels were sincerely interested in peace in the Transcaucasus, they would agree on the terms of their mission’s work with Azerbaijan.”

“Attempts by the European Union to gain a foothold in Armenia and push back Russia’s mediation efforts at any cost can harm the fundamental interests of Armenians and Azerbaijanis in their aspirations to return to the peaceful development of the region,” added the statement.

It also expressed confidence that Russian peacekeeping forces deployed in Nagorno-Karabakh will remain “the key factor of stability and security in the region” in the foreseeable future.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov deplored the planned dispatch of more than 100 EU monitors even before its official announcement. Speaking at a January 18 news conference in Moscow, Lavrov also rebuked Armenia for refusing a similar mission offered by the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) in November.

Yerevan appealed to the CSTO for support during the September 2022 border clashes which left at least 224 Armenian soldiers dead. Armenian leaders afterwards accused the Russian-led military alliance of ignoring the appeal and criticized its failure to condemn Azerbaijan.

The Russian Foreign Ministry said on Thursday that the alliance can still send its observers to Armenia’s border areas “if our Armenian allies remain interested in using the potential of the CSTO.”

The EU already deployed 40 civilian monitors to Armenian border areas in late October on a two-month mission agreed during an Armenian-Azerbaijani summit. Its intention to launch a new and larger monitoring mission without Azerbaijan’s consent has also been criticized by Baku.

 

 

 

 

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